family at the range

Teach your children how to handle guns safely.

I’ll bet it’s been a while since you got some friends and family together, packed up the cooler with some soft drinks, sandwiches and snacks and went out to the range to break some clay birds. I don’t care how much you shoot, that is always fun and challenging — and the kids and ladies can participate too. Get out early, hit Wally World for some shells, clay birds and maybe a cheap plastic hand thrower, and go for it.

The hand throwers take a little practice, but once you get used to the snap of the wrist and angle you want to clay pigeon travel, they work pretty well. Be careful to position the person throwing correctly. He should be about 6 to 8 feet to the side of the shooter and back a couple of steps behind him. I saw a guy whack his son on the side of the head with the thrower because he was standing way too close. I’ve also seen some serious injuries caused by careless use of powerful spring-loaded throwers, so always be careful when loading or launching with these.

The shooter should always be conscious of muzzle discipline and, of course, finger off the trigger until you’re on target. When taking turns, always be safety-conscious when you’re changing shooters and passing the gun from one person to another.

If you’re teaching someone to shoot clay birds, remember you want him to build a little confidence first. A straight going-away shot is always easier than one where the bird is crossing from one side to the other. A beginner should have the shotgun up and tucked in on his shoulder, or at least in a high ready position, before he says “pull” to the thrower. The less he has to move the gun when he tries to get on the bird the better.

Most shotgun instructors will tell you not to aim a bird gun but simply point it. I try to avoid chasing the target. It’s like the gun is a long pointer for my eyes. I’m on the bird with my eyes as soon as it is launched. When my eyes line up with the gun barrel, I point and shoot. I believe this method works a lot better than trying to chase the bird with the gun. It’s all about your eyes being on the bird.

Shooting rifles is also lots of fun for the whole family — especially with .22s that shoot a lot cheaper. Most folks who frequently shoot a rifle have either a bipod on the gun or some kind of sled or holder for accurate shooting. If you don’t, you can improvise with a soft-sided cooler or bag filled with sand or rice. I have a couple of small lunch-sized ones and a couple of larger ones to get set up comfortable with the gun supported well.

It’s nice to have a spotting scope, but any pair of binoculars will do the job well enough to see your hits without going downrange — especially if you use the Shoot-N-C targets. Scopes or optics are helpful too, but I can remember my first .22 with simple peep sights and hitting tin bean cans at 100 yards. No need for expensive stuff if you can get the job done for less money. That leaves more to buy ammo.

Looking to add to the fun? Compete with each other. Use smaller, more challenging targets to improve your skills. You can also do what’s called target-acquisition drills. Set up four 6-inch targets in a square pattern. Get your handgun pointed downrange at low ready position and look at the ground where the gun is pointed about halfway to the target. Now have your partner tell you which of your targets and in what sequence he wants you to shoot. When he says “fire,” you swing up, acquire the target and make the shots. Start out slow. As you become better, speed up the drill and reduce the size of the targets or move them back farther.

A day at the range can be an enjoyable family experience. Everyone can participate and have a good time. Just remember your safety basics and have fun with your gun.

Safe shooting.

Billy Carl is an NRA-certified firearms instructor and is available for individual instruction in firearms safety and concealed carry classes. Contact him at 941-769-0767 or through J&J One Stop Gun Shop at 2324 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, or 941-979-5008.

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